In the Fishtank
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IN the Fishtank is Konkurrent's project where invited bands are given two days to lay down 24 tracks of whatever they like. The Series offers a psace for expression and experimentation. This latest collaboraiton contains delicat, abstract, and elusive miniatures that fit in the jazz tradition rather than in the frame of pop; based on sounds; instant composing and fantasy.
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There's a definite jazz feeling about this recording, and it's due to more than just the presence of two ICP Orchestra horn players and ICP drummer Hans Bennink's guiding hand. The whole thing was recorded in just one day, and as there aren't any 'tunes' we can safely imagine that everything presented here is a first take: the things that didn't turn out as well just didn't make it onto the record. This means that the emphasis is on the interplay between the musicians, who let us listen in as each number develops from the grain of an idea into a complete whole.
Of course, there are people (probably lots) who will say that they don't pay to hear development, and that anyways all this just sounds like noise. In reality, though, the tracks on this album are far from homogeneous. I won't say they 'repay careful listening,' because that would just mean they don't sound good from the start: what they do repay is listening for more than one superficial second and then saying 'I don't get it.' 'IV,' the second track (as free improvisations the tunes don't have titles, and the numbers aren't all in order), is held together by a fractured electronic walking bass line provided by Ex bassist Luc Ex, while the guitars, horns and percussion gradually swell over it into a wall of sound and then recede again into individal exclamations. 'V' is a duet between Wolter Wierbos' muted trombone and a guitar (Thurston Moore, is my guess), backed up by delicate percussion playing, while 'VI' features probing clarinet explorations (from Ab Baars) over halting bass figures. The last track, 'X,' has the most regular rhythm of anything on the album, but the beat still seems to grow organically out of the improvisations, and feels all the more powerful for that (the drumming on this one is a thing of beauty).
Fans of Sonic Youth should be aware that this album is much more like the SYR series than it is any of the Sonics' more commercial recordings, but that shoudn't turn them off. The noise on this record is just an extension of things like 'The Diamond Sea' and 'Karen Revisited,' with the addition of other thoughtful musicians--some of whom inspired Sonic Youth to begin with--and you can hear the joy that all the participants in this musical communication. It sounds good for its own sake too.